There have been plenty of great players in the MLS and making this list was no easy task. These are the most famous and well known players within the world of soccer to have played in the league. Some of the sport's biggest icons have played in the MLS.
Many players on this list have won the most prestigious awards in soccer like the Ballon d'Or, the Champions League, and the World Cup. There are some who also came to the MLS and made their mark while some others will be forgotten when it comes to league accomplishments.
This list was easy and hard to make at the same time. Picking the names was simple but ranking them was a challenge as we are ranking the best against the best. Without further ado, let's take a look at the top 25 most famous players in MLS history.
25. Giovani dos Santos
Giovani dos Santos is a Mexican player known for his versatility to play anywhere up top. He played for Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur before making his way to the MLS were he joined LA Galaxy for three years.
Dos Santos won three CONCACAF Gold Cups and the Olympic Games in 2012 representing Mexico. He is well known for his time in Europe but also his huge accomplishments for his national team. In the MLS he made the MLS All-Star game twice.
24. Sebastian Giovinco
Sebastian Giovinco is an Italian player who stands out because of his height, only being 5'3. In 2015 he signed for Toronto FC making him the league's highest paid player were he won an MLS Cup, MLS Golden Boot, and MLS MVP Award.
Giovinco played for Juventus before becoming the all-time top scorer for Toronto FC and has represented Italy in 76 different occasions. He is mostly known for his time at Juventus but his huge impact in the MLS has also made him known.
23. Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey could easily be the greatest American soccer player in history. He started and ended his career in the MLS but played most of his career in Premier League side Fulham. He is Fulham's all-time top goalscorer.
Dempsey was the first American player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League. While representing the United States, he earned more than 142 caps and scored 57 goals which makes him the top goalscorer tied with Landon Donovan. His huge European and International team success have made Dempsey a well known name for sports fans.
22. Carlos Vela
Carlos Vela is a Mexican player known for his creativity and goal scoring abilities. His career began with European giants Arsenal before his transfer to Real Sociedad were he played for six years before joining MLS side Los Angeles FC.
Vela has participated in two World Cups with Mexico and won the 2009 Gold Cup. He is known for his time at Real Socieded were he played 250 matches and scored 73 goals but his time at the MLS has only made him more famous. He has won the MLS Golden Boot, MLS MVP, and a Supporter's Shield with LAFC already while breaking goal scoring records.
21. Alexandre Pato
Alexandre Pato is a Brazilian player who had a fantastic career from a very young age. He made his debut when he was 16 and helped his side, Internacional, win the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup before joining Milan in 2007.
At Milan he earned the Golden Boy and Serie A Young Footballer of the Year award and was the top scorer for his team when they won the league title during the 2010/11 season. Pato also played for Chelsea in the Premier League and in 2021 made his transfer to MLS side Orlando City.
20. Hristo Stoichkov
Hristo Stoichkov is a Bulgarian former player known for being a lethal forward and is widely regarded as the best Bulgarian soccer player of all time. He is a two-time runner up for the FIFA World Player of the Year Award and in 1994 he won the Ballon d'Or.
Stoichkov was the top goalscorer in 1990 with CSKA Sofia which gave him the European Golden Shoe. He then joined Barcelona were he won 13 titles with the club including the Champions League. In the MLS he joined the Chicago Fire were he won the U.S. Open Cup in 2000.
19. Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole is a former English defender mostly remembered for his time at Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League. He has 399 Premier League appearances and is widely regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation.
Cole was a part of the "Invincibles" team with Arsenal who went a whole seaon undefeated and also won three FA Cups with the club. He then won the Champions League with Chelsea and in 2016 he joined MLS side LA Galaxy. Cole was also the 2010 England Player of the Year.
18. Landon Donovan
Landon Donovan is a former American player who holds countless MLS records. Donovan is one of the few players on this list who became even more famous, if not the most well known, during their time in the MLS. He has broken records everywhere.
Donovan won a record six MLS Cups and is Major League Soccer's top assister. The league renamed the MVP award after him and for the United States he is also the all-time leader in assists and tied for first as the top goalscorer. He is also a four-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year Award and the only man to ever win that award.
17. Javier Hernandez
Javier Hernandez or as he's commonly known by, Chicharito, is a Mexican striker who has played for some of the best clubs in the world. Before joining LA Galaxy in 2020, he played for Manchester United and Real Madrid were he made a name for himself.
Chicharito has one of the best minutes-per-goal ratios in Premier League history and is Mexico's leading goalscorer with 52 goals in 109 matches. He was the 2011 Gold Cup's top scorer and the MVP of the tournament were he led Mexico to victory.
16. Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane is a former Republic of Ireland player who made a big impact in the MLS. Keane is his countries most capped player and top goalscorer. He played for many teams but is mostly remembered for his time as the Tottenham captain.
Keane is the 15th highest goal scorer in Premier League history and has won 29 individual awards throughout his career. He won three MLS Cups and a Supporters' Shield with LA Galaxy and made a big impact in the MLS.
15. Lothar Matthaus
Lothar Matthaus is a former German player who was an absolute machine on the pitch. He captained his team to win the 1990 FIFA World Cup and was named the European Footballer of the Year were he still remains as the only German player to have received that award. He joined MLS side Metrostars in 2000.
Until 2018 Matthaus had the record for playing in the most World Cups having participated in five different ones. Diego Maradona said this about Matthaus, "he is the best rival I've ever had. I guess that is enough to define him".
14. Alessandro Nesta
Alessandro Nesta is a fomer Italian defender who is widely considered as one of the best defenders of all time. He is a four-time Serie A Defender of the Year and in 2004 he was named one of the Top 100 Greatest Living Footballers.
Nesta won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and is a four-time UEFA Team of the Year player. He has two Champions League and was inducted into the A.C. Milan Hall of Fame. In 2012 he signed for Montreal Impact as a free transfer.
13. Gonzalo Higuain
Gonzalo Higuain is an Argentine striker known for being a prolific goalscorer. He played for Real Madrid, Napoli, and Juventus before joining Inter Miami in 2020. in 2016 he became the highest ever transfer for an Italian club when Juventus signed him for 90 million euros.
Higuain has the record for most goals in a single Serie A season with 36 and is a three-time Serie A Team of the Year player. As of March 2021 he has only played 9 games for Inter Miami so his time in the MLS could still be very successful.
12. Carlos Valderrama
Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama could possibly have the most famous hairstyle out of any player ever. He is considered by many as Colombia's greatest ever player and was one of South America's most recognisable players in the late 1980s.
Valderrama won the South American Footballer of the Year award in two separate occasions and is Colombia's most capped player. He joined the MLS side Tampa Bay Mutiny in their very first inaugural season and in 2005 was named as an MLS All-Time Best XI.
11. Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard is a former English player who is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation. He was the Man of the Match in the Champions League final in 2005 when his team came back from being 3-0 down in what became known as the "Miracle of Istanbul".
Gerrard is the only player to score in an FA Cup Final, a UEFA Cup Final, a League Cup Final, and a UEFA Champions League Final, winning every final as well. He is England's fourth most capped player and has the record for most matches as Liverpool captain with 473. Gerrard joined LA Galaxy in 2000 and stayed with the club until he retired in 2004.
10. Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger is a former German player who is considered as one of the greatest midfielders of all time. He is mostly remembered for his time at Bayern Munich were he won 18 titles including the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup.
Schweinsteiger made his move to Chicago Fire in 2017 were he played for two years before he retired. He won the World Cup with Germany in 2014 was the 2013 Footballer of the Year in Germany. He was also a two-time MLS All-Star and in 2018 he got inducted into the FC Bayern Munich Hall of Fame.
9. Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard is a former English player who is considered as one of Chelsea's best ever players and one of the greatest midfielders of his generation. He spent 13 years playing with Chelsea and is the clubs all-time leading goalscorer with 211 goals.
Lampard is a legend of the game and the only midfielder to have scored more than 150 goals in the Premier League. He joined New York City FC in 2015 were he played 29 games and scored 15 goals before he retired at the club.
8. David Villa
David Villa is a former Spanish player regarded by many as the best Spanish striker of all time. He won the UEFA Champions League with Barcelona in 2011 and the FIFA Club World Cup. He is Spain's all-time top scorer with 59 goals.
Villa joined New York City FC in 2014 and stayed with the club for four years. He is NYCFC's all-time top scorer with 80 goals and was a two-time MLS Best XI. In 2016 he won the MLS MVP and in 2017 he was awarded the Best MLS Player ESPY Award.
7. Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba is a former Ivorian striker and the all time top goalscorer for his country. He is widely regarded as one of Chelsea's best ever players and he also won the African Footballer of the Year twice. He transfered to MLS side Montreal Impact in 2015 were he scored 21 goals in 33 games.
Drogba was the first Chelsea player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League and the player with the most Golden Boots in the clubs history. He is the only player to score in four separate FA Cup finals. Drogba is one of the best African players of all time.
6. Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo is a former Italian player known for his class and creativity. He was a crucial player to Italy's World Cup win in 2006 and is the fifth-most capped player for his country. He has won countless trophies in his career and is one of the best ever deep-lying playmakers the sport has ever seen.
Pirlo won two Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup with Milan. He has won six Serie A league titles and two Coppa Italia trophies. In 2015 he transfered to MLS side NYCFC were he played for four years. He has been inducted in both Italy's Hall of Fame and the Juventus Greatest XI of all time.
Kaka is a former Brazilian player who is considered as one of the best players of his generation. He is one of only eight players to have won the FIFA World Cup, the Champions League, and the Ballon d'Or. He is mostly known for his time with Real Madrid and AC Milan.
Kaka joined Orlando City in 2014 and played for the club until he retired in 2017. He is a three-time MLS All-Star and has won countless individual awards. Kaka was the top assist provider in two different Champions League seasons and the top scorer in the 2006/07 season.
4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the most decorated players and the third player with the most goal contributions in the last decade only behind Messi and Ronaldo. The Swedish striker has won 31 trophies in his career.
Ibrahimovic has scored over 570 goals throughout his career and has scored in the last four decades. He joined LA Galaxy in 2018 were he scored 52 goals in 56 games, an insane games-to-goal ratio! He has 11 Ballon d'Or nominations and won the 2013 Puskas Award for his 35-yard bicycle kick.
3. Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney is a former English player who is widely considered as one of the best players of his generation. He is the top goalscorer for both Manchester United and the England National team. Rooney is also the second-top scorer in Premier League history.
Rooney joined D.C. United in 2018 were he scored 23 goals in 48 games. He is also the youngest player to start in a competitive match for England at 17 years and 160 days. A true legend of the game and one of the most decorated Premier League players of all time.
2. Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry is a former French striker who is widely considered as the greatest player in the history of the Premier League and one of the best strikers of all time. Henry was one of the most marketed soccer players during the 2000's.
Henry joined the New York Red Bulls in 2010 were he scored 51 goals in 122 games and won the Supporters' Shield in 2013. He is a four-time MLS All-Star and three-time MLS Best XI. Henry won the FIFA World Cup with France and is a four-time Premier League Golden Boot winner.
1. David Beckham
David Beckham is the most famous player in MLS history. He played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe like Manchester United and Real Madrid. He was also the first English player to play in 100 UEFA Champions League matches.
Beckham is a legend in the soccer world and he is also extremely well known just as a celebrity. He joined LA Galaxy in 2007 were he won two MLS Cups and two Supporters' Shields. Beckham is now the owner of Inter Miami FC and continues his huge impact in the MLS.